Tag: obama

My travels in Cuba (2/3): Cienfuegos

By Daniel Margrain

Cienfuegos Banner.jpg

 

In this, the second of three ‘travel in Cuba’ installments as part of my ‘authenticity series’ of posts, I will discuss the events that followed my two hour bus journey from Trinidad to the French-influenced fortress port city of Cienfuegos. As I highlighted previously, many Cuban’s have a kind of resigned pragmatism regarding the countries likely future transition to capitalism.

The then recently-elected Obama was widely regarded to be the catalyst for change in the country. But these changes were envisaged as only being possible within the context of a transitional Cuban government of which the lifting of the embargo would be the first step in the cooling of US-Cuban relations.

Due to the 1996 US Helms-Burton Act, the tightening of the embargo was pulled up a notch not loosened. The hope – which has yet to materialize – was that under Obama, Helms-Burton would be repealed. But even if a radical shift in Cuban politics occurs following Fidel’s death, it is unlikely – given the perilous state of the US economy – that an effectively lame-duck president or either of his successors – Trump or Clinton – will make Cuba one of their main priorities in the immediate future.

During my time spent in the country, I stayed in a variety of different sized accommodations from the small apartment to the large family house and I wondered how this disparity could be explained given the nature of Cuban society. I also wondered how in practical terms, Cuban people managed to move home and set up new lives in new cities and towns within the context of a country where private property is non-existent.

I discussed these topics, as well as the comparative notions of democracy and human rights in Cuba, with some British travelers whilst on a boat trip around the crescent shaped coast of the ‘Jewel of the Caribbean’ on a cloudy and relatively cold night in December 2009. Like myself, my fellow travelers had been unable to get any answers to these questions. It was clear that I was not going to be able to satisfy my inquisitive mind in the charming laid back atmosphere of Cienfuegos where the notion of time had appeared to have come to a standstill.

What struck me most about this beautiful country, is that the things we in the West take for granted, like the notion of time, appear to have no real meaning or relevance in Cuban society. This apparent irrelevance of time, squares with Peter Linebaugh’s contention that the essence of time and the spaces it fills in the vacuum left over from unprofitable ‘surplus’ free time, are necessarily constrained by a capitalist economic logic that prioritizes the accumulation of profit above all other human activity.

As Linebaugh asserts, the emergence of the mass-produced time-piece during the 18th century, reflects this overriding obsession with time and its coersive affects in perpetuating and reproducing the disciplining of workers as part of the prevailing capitalist order.

The Cuban people’s disrespect for time was no more evident than in the streets of Cienfuegos – arguably the most authentic of all Cuban cities. The relatively well-maintained streets, squares and open spaces in the centre of the city, provide the backdrop for idle chatting, drinking, eating, the playing of dominoes, chess, baseball and general relaxation. Cuban’s of all ages embrace, kiss, talk and laze about – it’s an intrinsic part of the way Cuban folk spend their time together.

I witnessed joy and happiness, as well as sadness and despair on the faces of the people on the streets of Cienfuegos, much like anywhere else on the planet. But of all people in ‘third world’ countries, the Cuban’s are by a country mile, some of the most humble and dignified of any people that I met on my travels. This is despite the fact that they suffered terribly following the break-up of the Soviet Union during the three years 1991-94.

The current crisis in the Cuban economy can be traced back to this period as a result of the ending of Soviet subsidies that had effectively sustained the economy for 30 years. By the end of the decade there was growth based on a rapidly expanding tourist industry. But this growth was fragile because it did not reflect any deep transformation of the economy.

However, despite this, I saw no evidence of the horrors which characterized that particular period of Cuban history. In Cuba, unlike for example,’democratic’ India, I did not see emaciated and starving people, neither did I see vast inequalities of economic wealth, or witness the social fabric of a country at the point of collapse. Civil society in Cuba – albeit limited by Western standards – functions relatively well when compared to many other countries that we prefer to call third world ‘democracies’.

Further, the perception of street safety and well-being was, in my experience, a reality in the towns and cities I visited throughout the country. Whilst widespread alcoholism, drug addiction, petty theft of property and other social misdemeanors, are a regular feature of everyday life in a modern country like Britain, in Cuba this is not the case. During the odd occasion that I had brought up this particular topic with Cuban people, the response was often one of total dismay and incomprehension.

Women can, and frequently do, walk the streets of Cuban cities alone and in safety. This may appear to some folks to be somewhat of a caricature, but in 2009 it happened to have been true. It is also true that Cuba places a high priority on education which is 100 per cent subsidized by the government, meaning that Cuban students at all levels can attend school for free. The government also operates a national health system and assumes monetary and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens. In addition, housing and utility costs throughout the country are minimal to non-existent.

Cuba ranks as having among the world’s best patients per doctor ratios and has levels of infant mortality and life expectancy rates that compare favourably with many of the first world nations of the industrial world. As of 2012, infant mortality in Cuba had fallen to 4.83 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 6.0 for the United States and just behind Canada with 4.8. I will remind readers, all this has been achieved within the context of an extremely damaging and punitive US-initiated trade embargo which has seen Cuba marginalized and isolated – both economically and politically – from much of the world.

It is also a nation that remains effectively at war with the most powerful country on earth. It is true that democracy as we have come to understand it in the West, has been ‘suspended’ in Cuba on the pretext that it is a country at war, in much the same way that democracy was suspended in Britain during WW2. The draconian embargo is a reflection of this war-footing, which goes a long way to explaining the queues and food stamps.

In keeping with tradition, my Cuban hosts in Cienfuegos were friendly, charming and hospitable. I would often eat dinner at the home of my hosts who occupied a rather grand house close to the centre of town. While staying there, I occasionally took the opportunity to watch some television. Cuban television output is not unlike most national media throughout the world in terms of its targeting of a specific demographic at different times of the day.

In London, I have the potential to be able to tune into approximately 100 virtually identical channels. In Cuba the number is a diverse four. During my stay, I managed to watch an episode of The Sopranos and the movie Goya’s Ghosts. News and current affairs output and debate in Cuba is clearly more incisive and truthful than its British state broadcasting counterpart, the BBC. For example, there appears to be none of the fake probing and bating in the interviewing style of Paxman, or any of the dubious claims of impartiality and objectivity that typify the BBC.

In terms of the Cuban news media more broadly, the emphasis appears to be focused on Latin American affairs as one might expect. Studio debates seem, by and large, to be genuinely heated, spontaneous and passionate which, at least as far as I was concerned, made for a refreshing change from the kind of bland European and North American-focused, and often contrived, output that passes for news in much of the West. My hosts allowed me to peruse the TV output late into the night while they were asleep.

The income generated by travelers like me was highly valued by my hosts who not only ensured that my every need was catered for but being a guest of theirs, also provided their young son and daughter with the opportunity to practice their English. As there was a big gap in my hosts future bookings they seemed reluctant to let me go. But this was not the only reason. I felt that a genuine mutual friendship had developed between us.

Nonetheless, as much as I enjoyed Cienfuegos, my time in Cuba was limited and I felt the time had now come for me to move on. I wanted to get a taste of the Cuban experience within a tourist package environment. This meant only one word – ‘Varadero’ – a relatively developed ‘package resort’ 184 kilometres from Cienfuegos on the Atlantic side of the island.

Final part to follow: Varadero and my trip back to Havana.

 

Putin calls Obama’s bluff

By Daniel Margrain

On the October 7 edition of Channel 4 News, anchor Jon Snow said of Russia’s firing of 26 cruise missiles on eleven targets in Syria from ships in the Caspian sea, as “a significant escalation in the Syrian crisis”. The reporter Jonathan Rugman belittled Putin’s attempt at cooperating with the American’s despite the fact that it was president Obama who denied the former the coordinates with which to target ISIS. Instead, Russia has reportedly attacked CIA backed rebels with the apparent aim of scuppering their hopes of toppling the Assad regime.

The context in which Russia has entered the conflict comes on the back of 3,731 coalition air strikes on Syria since August 2014, the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people in the four and a half years of the “civil war” and, as the Washington Post quoting US officials reported in June, the CIA have trained and equipped nearly 10,000 “rebel” terrorist fighters. According to Patrick Cockburn, half of the 22 million Syrians have been either displaced inside the country or are external refugees. Syria represents one of the last bastions of resistance to US power and its gateway to Iran.

The illegal US-led invasion and overthrow of the Saddam regime was the catalyst for the current wave of chaos from which Al-Qaeda and then ISIS emerged which, according to a recently declassified US intelligence report, written in August 2012, was a development the United States government welcomed.

The report also indicates that the US effectively welcomed the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an Al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies Al-Qaida in Iraq and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria. Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”,

The Pentagon report continues, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”. This is consistent with the charge that the initial violence in March 2011 (on the back of the Arab Spring) in the border city of Dara’a involved covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence in which radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel) played a part. Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement. Jeremy Salt, associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University, Ankara,wrote:

“The armed groups are well armed and well organised. Large shipments of weapons have been smuggled into Syria from Lebanon and Turkey. They include pump action shotguns, machine guns, Kalashnikovs, RPG launchers, Israeli-made hand grenades and numerous other explosives. It is not clear who is providing these weapons but someone is, and someone is paying for them.”

This is not to say the US created Al-Qaeda- ISIS, but it has certainly exploited its existence against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western hegemony. Moreover, the Gulf states are backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. These are the groups Russia is reportedly requesting coordinates for, but which the US is refusing. The US also supports Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen which over the last few days have killed hundreds of civilians.

Obama’s policy is as weak and muddled as Putin’s is strong and clear. Syrian’s understand that ISIS and it’s affiliates won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought them to Iraq which is why they want Russia to intervene to help regain some kind of control over a situation that long ago spun out of control. They understand that prior to Iraq there was relative stability in the region and therefore prefer Assad remaining in power than the chaos the west has brought.

Peace cannot return to Syria and Iraq until ISIS is defeated which, for it’s own narrow geopolitical and strategic interests, America has no intention of letting happen. Regardless, Putin seems intent on forcing the hand of his imperialist adversary.

At his news conference on Friday, Obama said, “in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition [out], because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians. This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.”

But Obama did not explain how he knew what “the overwhelming majority of Syrians” want. Many Syrians – especially the Christians, Alawites, Shiites and secular Sunnis – appear to see Assad and his military as their protectors, the last bulwark against the horror of a victory by the Islamic State or Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which is a major player in the so-called “Army of Conquest,” as both groups make major gains across Syria.

Obama’s inaction against the terrorists he effectively supports as part of what is now widely accepted as a policy of regime change in Syria, has been exposed by Putin for what it is. Obama adopted a similar approach toward Libya which is now a failed state. Putin’s decisive intervention in Syria is the third time he has wrong-footed Obama – the first when he called him out over the veto with regards to UN resolution 1973 in relation to Libya, and the second was his overstepping of Obama’s ‘red line’ in respect to the unproven Assad-chemical weapons allegations.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

By Daniel Margrain

The momentous nature of Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory should not be underestimated. It has to go down as one of the most sensational and politically earth shattering events in modern British political history – the impacts of which are sending tremors throughout the entire establishment. After the announcement was made that Corbyn had won, it was obvious that the smiles, handshakes and applause of the vast majority of the calculating and opportunistic labour elite were as a fake as Blair’s claim that Saddam was about to attack Britain within 45 minutes.

A pointer to the overwhelming inspiration underlying Corbynism was the fact that no less than 160,000 volunteers who seemingly emerged out of nowhere, were recruited to the cause. The grass roots support that Corbyn engendered – by far the biggest of its kind in history – was almost certainly the catalyst that propelled him to victory. Although the activists were mainly young people, they were by no means exclusively so. In fact the demographic was wide ranging.

Corbyn’s straight talking, lucidity, and unambiguous commitment to a programme of anti-austerity brought many older activists who had felt betrayed by the direction the party had gone under Blair, back into the fold. To put Corbyn’s victory into context, he secured a higher percentage of votes than Blair got in 1994  Even more significant, the 554,272 votes he achieved was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair received.

This would indicate that Corbynmania is no flash in the pan, but on the contrary, represents a new optimism that things really can be better given the right circumstances. Decades where nothing happens can all of a sudden transform into the possibility where decades happen all within the blink of an eye. Neoliberal ideology, which for many was perceived to have been fixed and immutable has, with the rise of Corbynism ,the potential to be swept away.

The excitement that surrounds Corbyn in 2015, therefore, marks a more significant change within the labour movement than the superficial controversy of ‘third way’ Blairism in 1994. Blair’s subsequent general election victory in 1997 cemented the ideological coming together of the Red-Tory axis that this writer hopes Corbynism will shatter to the dustbin of history. What is certain is that September 12, 2015 will be remembered as the day in British political history that Blairism officially died.

When Corbyn was first nominated, he was seen by his opponents both inside and outside the party as a joke candidate. But an indication of how they are now taking him seriously is the extent to which the mainstream media are unanimously attacking him. The Tories, who apparently voted for him because they thought it would enhance their future electoral prospects, are the ones now claiming he is a danger to national security.

But the more they attack, the greater is his support. Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor, Gideon Osborne and MP, Priti Patel have all made exactly the same public statements attacking Corbyn. Clearly, all of them have read the same memo issued from Whitehall. The fear mongering and demonizing propaganda, intended for news bulletin soundbites, is so transparent that it’s comical.

The Tories got this tactic from the Republican Party in America who repeat the same propaganda over and over again hoping that some of it sticks which it invariably does. Of course, the media play their part by uncritically reporting it. An example was the way Fox News repeated the lie that President Obama was a Muslim who was born outside of America.

The phrase repeated in the UK media is that “hard-left” Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to the security of our country, economy and every UK family. In the interest of consistency, why don’t the media who describe security-risk, Corbyn as “hard-left”, apply the euphemism “hard-right” to Cameron whose illegal wars greatly increase the risk of domestic terrorist activity? Gove said:

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is a deadly serious demand from her majesty’s opposition that we put the future of this country in the hands of the MP for Islington North…There can be no room for doubt or ambiguity about what Jeremy Corbyn would do if he formed the next government. He would pose a direct threat to the security of our country, the security of our economy and the security of every family…. He would weaken our defenses and make Britain less safe. By choosing Jeremy Corbyn over his rivals, the party have now endorsed deserting our allies like Norway. He proposes leaving the NATO alliance just as the growing threat from Islamist extremists requires international solidarity.

Or to put it another way, Corbyn wants Britain to stop trailing after America to launch another war that got us into this mess in the first place. Gove continues:

“Corbyn would also reduce our armed forces further unilaterally, scrapping our nuclear deterrent whilst terrorists and state sponsors of terror seek to develop nuclear weapons of their own.”

Just think about that for a moment. In the unlikely event that terrorists get hold of a nuclear weapon, they are not going to put it on the back of a rocket and send it from where they are living because they will be easily detectable from space and consequently we would be able to respond in kind. Terrorists are insane but they are not stupid.

What they are more likely to do is Fed Ex some kind of small device in the hope that it would be undetectable which, therefore, totally mitigates against the effectiveness of a state like Britain to be able to use nuclear weapons as a targeted response.

Gove then goes on to criticise Corbyn for his apparent economic incompetency by suggesting that his policy of printing money would be inflationary, overlooking the fact that his own government flooded the bankers with money. The stated aim was that the banks would lend the money back to us with interest so that they would make more profit. But the bankers went one better than that by using the money to buy shares in their own companies thereby increasing the value of those shares and hence the amount of bonuses they were able to award themselves. Conversely, Corbyn’s stated aim is to give the money to the people as a means of generating growth.

Gove then misquotes Corbyn as saying that the death of Osama Bin Laden was a tragedy. But what Gove failed to mention, was that Corbyn was not describing the death as a tragedy, but the fact that Bin Laden wasn’t put on trial, imprisoned and therefore punished for longer.

Liberal Democratic Drone Assassins

Katrina, Ethnic Cleansing And The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism

Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in American history, hit the Gulf Coast just as America prepared to mark the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This is deeply symbolic since what the aftermath of the disaster highlighted was the extent to which the one dovetailed neatly into the other. The American government’s quest to bring American-style freedom and democracy to other nations exposed their inadequacy in resolving fundamental domestic disparities and inequities closer to home.

Katrina did not create these disparities and inequities, it simply added an important reminder that they are deeply embedded and constitutive of American political, economic, and social life. One of the major legacies of Katrina is that the disaster laid bare the inequalities, not just within New Orleans, but America itself.

It is perhaps naive to think that the catastrophe will provide a longer-term wake-up call to the political establishment in America to set about actively building a more fair and meaningful democracy in the country. Subsequent inaction would indeed appear to indicate that there is some justification for this naivety.

There is little indication a decade down the line that any attention has been paid to the role of American political institutions in addressing contemporary racial, economic, regional, and gendered inequities.The tenth anniversary visit of George Bush to New Orleans recently was emblematic of his administration’s incompetence rather than any cause for gratitude from the people affected by the tragedy.

The visit of Obama was no less irrelevant. In emphasising his apparent commitment to the recovery process, the president said“Part of our goal has always been to make sure not just that we recovered from the storm but also to make sure we dealt with some of the structural inequities that existed long before the storm happened.

It’s strange then that when Harry Shearer took out a full page ad in the local newspaper suggesting that Obama as the commander and chief of the US Army Corp of Engineers acknowledge this agencies’ responsibility for the deaths of 1,800 people, he was met with silence from the president. As usual, Obama offered nothing other than empty rhetorical platitudes as a substitute for tackling real problems.

Shearer, who made a documentary film about Katrina that focused on why the disaster happened, argued on Channel 4 News that Katrina was a man made catastrophe. Quoting one of the co-authors of a Berkeley report, he said that this was the greatest man made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl.

Are these failed systems still in place a decade later? And if so, what is to prevent a similar catastrophe happening again?

Shearer says that the new improved system that cost the US taxpayer £14 billion has been built to a substantially lower standard than the system that failed. Last week, one of the members of the Levee Authority told Shearer that his advice to the citizens of New Orleans regarding whether they should feel more safe or not, was to maintain a constant skepticism.

None of this would be a surprise to author and activist Naomi Klein who, in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, views the social breakdown of societies and communities as being a feature of neoliberal economic policies of governments’. This breakdown is not the result of incompetence or mismanagement, therefore, but is integral to the free-market project, which can only advance against a background of disasters.

Disaster is part of the normal functioning of the type of capitalism we have today: “An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial.”

Media reports in the immediate aftermath of Katrina – for example, hereherehereherehere and here – would tend to support Klein’s thesis. Unnatural disasters such as wars as well as natural ones like tsunamis and Hurricanes, allow governments and multinationals to take advantage of citizen shock and swiftly impose corporate-friendly policies.The result: a wealthier elite and more-beleaguered middle and lower classes. Sri Lankan fishing villages become luxury resorts and public schools along the Gulf Coast become corporate-run “charter” schools.

Three weeks after Katrina, the state sacked all the unionized teachers, disbanded the school board and turned the schools over to a state receiver in Baton Rouge resulting in the loss of community accountability. Margaret Spelling, the secretary of education, dumped $24 million into New Orleans, but it wasn’t allowed to go into public schools. It went to the charter schools thereby resulting in the shifting of power away from people towards the creation of a three-tier privatized system.

The destruction of New Orleans resulting from Katrina, also paves the way for its potential gentrification and social and ethnic cleansing where the city’s working class Black population – the people who are the very soul of the city, and who created its culture and made it famous – are seen as the major obstacle to the city’s economic recovery. A minority of them are necessary to be service workers in casinos and hotels. But the bigger idea has been to shrink the Black population and push the poor out of the city.

This kind of ruthless attitude toward the poor is symptomatic of the statement made by Republican congressman Richard Baker when he was overheard telling lobbyists “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” It’s difficult to believe that the comment could be construed as anything other than informing some of the planning for a disaster in New Orleans. Flood becomes part of an ethnic cleansing process. City politics has been aiming at that for the last 20 or 25 years.

Channel 4s Jonathan Rugman Sets The Tone For More War

Sirte-destroyed-1

It would appear that the failed Western interventions predicated on packs of lies that have resulted in widespread chaos and hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya with many more displaced and turning up on the shores of Europe, is not enough for harbingers of democracy and freedom and their media echo chambers’.

Since Nato’s illegal “humanitarian intervention” which resulted in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddaffi, thousands of prisoners have been held without trial in government jails, and torture and brutality have become rife. In fact, torture, bombings and assassinations are now par for the course in Libya, as described here.

Similarly, In Iraq, where prior to the allied invasion and occupation, Al Qaeda had no presence, the country is currently awash with the medieval savages known as ISIS and where sectarian violence is commonplace. In a single day in 2013, thirteen bombs were detonated in Baghdad killing at least 47 people. This is the context in which thousands of academics have been forced to leave the country.

Despite all of this carnage and human misery, the Pew Research Journalism Project finds that ‘the No. 1 message’ on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, and Al Jazeera, was “that the U S government should get involved in the conflict” in Syria. No surprise, then, that much of UK journalism had decided that the current Official Enemy was responsible for the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta almost two years to the day.

This was long before the UN published the evidence in its report on “the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area” on September 16 of that year. The UN did not blame the Syrian president, Assad, for the attack, but in truth expressed “grave doubts”, despite pre-emptied media claims to the contrary.

Just one day after the attacks, for example, a Guardian leader claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect”. The media’s response to the May 2012 massacre in Houla, similarly blamed it on Assad.

By not sticking to the script, Reuters was one of the few outlets who actually relayed the truth. On September 7, 2013 it reported:

“No direct link to President Bashar al-Assad or his inner circle has been publicly demonstrated, and some U.S. sources say intelligence experts are not sure whether the Syrian leader knew of the attack before it was launched or was only informed about it afterward.

“While U.S. officials say Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons strike even if he did not directly order it, they have not been able to fully describe a chain of command for the August 21 attack in the Ghouta area east of the Syrian capital.”

The lack of evidence of Assad’s culpability didn’t prevent US president Obama from regurgitating the media line by unequivocally pinning the blame on Assad for the chemical attack. Following Obama’s earlier warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line”, he then declared on September 10, 2013:

“Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people …We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Seymour Hersh saw through the lies and accused Obama of deceiving the world in making a cynical case for war. In response to pressure from an informed public who also saw through the deceptions, British MPs voted in parliament against war and Obama subsequently backed down.

Award-winning investigative journalist Gareth Porter shows that:

[T]he Syria chemical warfare intelligence summary released by the Barack Obama administration August 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment, [but appears to be] more politicised than the flawed 2002 Iraq WMD estimate that the George W Bush administration cited as part of the justification for the invasion of Iraq.

Two years down the line and the unsubstantiated media claims keep coming. A Channel 4 News report (August 26) by foreign affairs correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, showed what appeared to be the aftermath of what he described as “air attacks by the Assad government….that have killed scores of people” allegedly committed on August 23, once again, in Ghouta. Amid scenes of widespread destruction and panic, civilians were filmed carrying blood soaked dead or injured bodies from the rubble.

It’s my view that the public are once again being softened up for yet more military intervention in another sovereign nation, this time, Syria which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pointed out, would clearly be illegal. What people appear to be questioning in ever increasing numbers, since the Iraq debacle, is the nature of war and the role the imperialist powers like Britain and America play in these wars.

These debates have taken on a new sense of rigorous critique since Iraq resulting, for example, in the rejection by the British parliament of Obama’s red line. In America, congressional voting has unleashed a swarm of debates such as why should the US be the world’s policeman and what exactly are “US interests” in another country’s sectarian civil war?

People are increasingly beginning to understand that foreign military interventions in places like Syria and Iraq exacerbate ethnic and tribal sectarian based conflicts and that the only feasible option in resolving what has in effect become an international conflict, is discussion and diplomacy. People are less likely to believe their governments’ and their media echo chambers’ when they make unsubstantiated claims about reasons for a war.